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Congressional candidate dons hunting gear in campaign ad, doesn’t have hunting license

Jesse Reising says he hunted as a child but had to stop. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called it a "dishonest campaign."

ST. LOUIS, Missouri — Hiring experts tell you to 'dress to impress' to get that dream job, but one candidate running for Congress may have taken that advice a bit too far.  

Jesse Reising already has an impressive resume as it is. Kirkland & Ellis, which advertises itself as the largest corporate law firm in the world, named him as a partner last year. 

The high-powered law firm’s client list includes some of the world's biggest finance, drug, tech, and transportation companies, including Dow Chemical, Facebook, Bain Capital, Boeing, Verizon, Citadel Investment Group, GTCR, IBM, Pfizer, Nike, Raytheon, and United Airlines. 

Before that, Reising graduated as valedictorian from Eisenhower High School in Decatur, graduated from Yale where he played football, founded a nonprofit to help veterans get through college, worked as a contractor in Afghanistan, graduated from Harvard Law School, prosecuted federal crimes, and clerked for a federal judge.  

But in his pursuit of a new job in Congress, Reising is ditching the suit and tie for camouflage and hunter orange. Campaign videos and pictures posted to his website and social media pages show the Harvard Law School graduate walking through a field carrying a double-barreled shotgun.  

We asked him if he was on a hunt or a photoshoot. 

"We shot a shot that day,” Reising said. “We were out doing some pheasant hunting with the crew. I didn't actually go out that day. But we got the... got the photos and then that's what they are." 

However, according to FOIA documents from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources obtained by 5 On Your Side, Reising does not have a hunting license in Illinois. He acknowledged as much during a recent interview. 

"Right. No, I don't,” he said. “I haven't hunted since I was a young kid." 

Illinois state law allows 15- to 18-year-old teenagers to hunt with a provisional license if they have a licensed adult hunter accompanying them.  

A spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee gave a statement on the campaign tactic.

"Already Chicago lawyer Jesse Reising is running a dishonest campaign,” Elena Kuhn with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement. “Reising has made clear he's not up for the job."  

Reising says portraying himself as a hunter is fair game because he used to go hunting years ago. 

"I've had a serious neck injury that makes it impossible for me to hold up a shotgun,” he explained. 

The same campaign video shows footage of a gruesome injury Reising suffered in college. He says he hasn't gone hunting ever since, but still dresses up like a hunter in his campaign video alongside language that highlights his support for the Second Amendment.  

Does that portray him in a false light? 

"No, I don't think so,” he said. “I grew up hunting." 

Reising's positions on the issues

He used the imagery to convey his support for gun rights and the Second Amendment. Who is the candidate underneath the camouflage?

"I'm proudly pro-life and I believe that all life deserves protection, and that includes the life of the unborn," Reising responded to a question asking which women should be entitled to an abortion. 

When does he believe life begins?

"What we certainly cannot have in this country is what the Democrats support, which is late-term abortions on-demand at taxpayer expense," he responded.

Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's 'super precedent' which established the 'law of the land' for the last 49 years, protected a woman's access to abortion during the first two trimesters. If Congress were to debate and pass a law that established a legal timeframe for a woman to seek an abortion, where would Reising set that line?

"What the draft Dobbs decision does -- which has been leaked -- is restores the decision of when to regulate abortion to the states, to the people, through their democratically elected legislature," Reising said, dodging the question. 

"We'll have to see what the ultimate opinion says so that we can understand what our options are for promoting pro-life policies," he answered, "and that means things like ensuring that we're not having late-term abortions, funded at the taxpayer expense, on-demand."

How should the government treat women who face unplanned or unwanted pregnancies?

"We need to see compassion coming from our communities to we need to rally around women who are facing unplanned pregnancies and support them in every way that we can," he replied. 

"There is some role that government can play, too. And there are also private services as well, and expansion of our foster care systems and adoption programs to support women."

On economic issues, Reising describes himself as "a free market capitalist," and criticizes "dumb trade policy" that he says "decimated the industrial Midwest and led to the loss of countless jobs." 

Reising links inflation, which started to create concerns in 2021, to outsourcing jobs overseas, which started occurring decades ago. 

"What's really driving this inflation is the fact that we have outsourced our jobs overseas, and now we're seeing supply chain problems when the supply chain shutdown shuts down," he said. "We have issues getting the goods that we need here into the United States fuel and otherwise, that creates a supply chain snarl."

Some hardline Republicans have been elected to Congress in recent years and vowed to never compromise their principles. Other establishment Republicans have defended the tradition of compromising with Democrats to pass major legislation. Which strategy would he adopt if he was elected to Congress?

"You've got to have your principles, and there's a certain range within [where] there cannot be compromise," he said. "Outside of those core principles, if there's administrative aspects or otherwise that aren't a matter of principle, those are those are areas where compromise may be possible."

What does he consider his 'non-negotiables?' 

"I believe in limited government, free enterprise, personal responsibility, and opportunity for all and those are my core principles that guide me in every decision that I make," he responded.

If government should be limited, then does he support the bipartisan infrastructure package Congress approved?

"If they are true infrastructure -- roads, bridges, dams, things of that nature -- the government does have a role," he said. "But what we shouldn't be involved in as a federal government is some of these overly expansive social programs and this reckless spending in this expansive, bureaucratic administrative state."

Reising faces off against Regan Deering in Illinois' Republican primary for the newly drawn 13th Congressional District on June 28.